This is a recipe from Spain, where they cook a lot of snails. It is unusual because of the addition of the fennel stalks and their fronds, which gives a nice aniseedy taste to the dish, and also the chilies. The sauce is absolutely delicious, and if you don’t want to have snails you can use the sauce for almost anything. I do recommend it to you. This is a good party dish, served with plenty of bread and salad.
If using fresh snails, salt them, then wash in several changes of fresh cold water, rubbing them well to scrape off the froth that is their response to the salt. Put them in a deep pot, cover with water, and bring gently to a boil. When the froth rises, stir in the vinegar and skim. Lower the heat and simmer gently for 1½ hours. Drain and rinse. Take each snail out of its shell and pinch off the long dark intestine at the end. Return to its shell.
(If your snails are ready prepared, or canned, start your recipe here.) Put the olive oil to warm in a shallow pan. Add the onion and garlic and sauté lightly. Stir in the green pepper to fry as well. Add the tomatoes and simmer until the pulp melts to make a sauce. Add the chilies, fennel, and bay leaves. Add the sherry, and stew all together gently for 20-30 minutes or until you have a smooth rich sauce.
Put in the snails and heat them through. Serve the snails very hot in their sauce, accompanied by good country bread and a glass of cold dry sherry. A salad of chopped romaine lettuce is a good accompaniment.
© 1999 Jennifer Paterson and Clarissa Dickson Wright estate. All rights reserved.